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  •  Here's what I think went wrong: (14+ / 0-)

    Well, apart from the decision to adopt the CIO model (a contract with each employer) over the AFL  (industry wide contracts) or IWW (One Big Union) models.

    There was a time when Union officials and negotiators were chosen from the rank-and-file ... with accountants and lawyers engaged as need.

    But there came a time when it seemed that guys with better suits and better accents would (naturally) get better deals from Management -- so the elected Officials began to hire and groom Business Agents from the same law and business schools that Management got THEIR "suits" from.

    Meanwhile,  proletarian solidarity based on class consciousness pretty much died in WWII.  With the GI Bill and Levitt's suburbs EVERONE became "middle class" ... middle class taxi drivers, middle class auto workers, middle class garbage collectors ... everyone not actually on Welfare or clipping coupons for a living was a member of the One Big Middle Class.  

    Except, the White Collar workers "knew better" -- and since their superior skills and education were earning them better salaries than trade skills and union membership would have done  (or so they thought) service and office workers did not unionize.

    Who needed "militancy" when the Bosses were freely giving what the Harvard grads were negotiating for?  

    At first.

    A few decades later,  it became clear that Middle Class Workers had become as strike-adverse as were their bosses. (Easy credit and home mortgages in a consumer society saw to THAT)

    Gradually it developed that large masses of workers were no longer necessary to staff the primary industries which had either mechanized the labor or outsourced it. No one was spending a lot of time at the Union Hall, or lining up to "punch-in."

    Then Reagan broke the Air Flight Controllers union. But the coal miners, auto workers, building trades  ... "real" blue collar workers didn't see how that was THEIR problem.

    And now here we are
    and

    If you want a raise in pay here's all you gotta do
    Just go to the boss and ask for it
    He will give it to you
    He will give it to you my boys
    He will give to you
    A raise in pay
    Without delay
    He'll  Give  It  To  You

    (Oh, brother) Lay it on the ground
    Spread it all around
    Rake it with a hoe
    It'll make your roses grow.

    •  Remember that during the Air Controllers strike (6+ / 0-)

      the pilots union crossed the picket lines sure that the scab controllers were capable of doing the job. My brother is in the painters and operators union and does not believe that most workers deserve a union at all. I think you will find this common among a lot of tradesmen (but not electricians).

      When my wife was in the UFCW in Chicago none of her coworkers honored the boycott of Walmart. Even though they worked in a grocery store. They did not see what the big deal was. How many union households voted for Scott Walker?

      There is no solidarity. There is no desire to strike. And without both of those things unions have no leverage in negotiation. The corruption of the Teamsters from the 60s and 70s have not been forgotten. Unions are mistrusted in this country thanks to 30 years of anti-union messaging from business and politicans. When was the last time you heard the phrase "corporate thug". But you hear that about union reps all the time.

    •  Good summary (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CanisMaximus

      but the song/poem at the end doesn't quite make sense in that context, or maybe I'm missing something?

      "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

      by Alice in Florida on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 05:04:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  union medley (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Russ Jarmusch, CanisMaximus

        woody guthrie songs

        [You Gotta Go Down And Join The Union / Put It On The Ground / Union Maid / We Shall Not Be Moved / Which Side Are You On?]

        You gotta go down and join the union
        You got to join it by yourself
        Ain't nobody here can join it for you
        You gotta go down and join the union by yourself

        [Spoken:]
        Working in the factories would kill a dog
        Working on the belt line killed your soul
        Working in the limestone and cement quarries withered your lungs
        Working in the cotton mills shot your legs and feet all to hell
        And working in the steel mills burned up your spirit
        like a gnat that lit in the melting pot
        But out of this whole mixing bowl of hell and high water
        The working folk have marched against Billy clubs,
        against machine guns
        And they sang their way through the whole dirty mess

        Now, the bank men have got their union, and the
        landlords got their union
        And the finance men got their union
        But down south and out west
        On the cotton farms and working in the orchards and fruit crops
        It's a jail house offense for a few, common everyday workers
        To form them a union and get together for higher wages
        Honest pay and fair treatment.
        [Woody Guthrie, 1941]

        You gotta go down and join the union
        You got to join it by yourself
        Ain't nobody here can join it for you
        You gotta go down and join the union by yourself

        If you want a raise in pay all you have to do
        Is go and ask the boss for it and he will give it to you
        He will give it to you, my boys, he will give it to you
        A raise in pay without delay; He will give it to you

        Oh, put it on the ground, spread it all around
        Dig it with a hoe and it will make your flowers grow

        Oh, the men who own the industries they own no bonds or stocks
        They own no yachts and limousines or gems the size of rocks
        They own no big estates with pools or silken BVD's
        Because they pay the working man such fancy salaries

        Oh, put it on the ground, spread it all around
        Dig it with a hoe and it will make your flowers grow

        There once was a union maid who never was afraid
        Of the goons and ginks and the company finks
        And the deputy sheriff who made the raid
        She went to the union hall where a meeting it was called
        And when the company boys came around
        She always stood her ground

        Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union
        I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union
        Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union
        I'm sticking to the union 'till the day I die

        This union maid was wise to the tricks of the company spies
        She couldn't be fooled by the company's stool
        She'd always organize the guys
        She'd always get her way when she struck for better pay
        She'd show her card to the company guard
        And this is what she'd say:

        Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union
        I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union
        Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union
        I'm sticking to the union 'till the day I die

        We shall not, we shall not be moved
        We shall not, we shall not be moved
        Just like a tree that's standing by the water
        We shall not be moved

        Black and white together
        We shall not be moved
        Our union is forever
        We shall not be moved
        Just like a tree that's standing by the water
        We shall not be moved

        We shall not, we shall not be moved
        We shall not, we shall not be moved
        Just like a tree that's standing by the water
        We shall not be moved

        They say in Harlan County there are no neutrals there
        You'll either be a union man or a thug for J.H. Blair

        Which side are you on, which side are you on?
        Which side are you on which side are you on?

        Don't scab for the bosses, don't you listen to their lies
        Us poor folks haven't got a chance unless we organize

        Which side are you on, which side are you on?
        Which side are you on which side are you on

        fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

        by mollyd on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 06:44:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My point of quoting a 1950s union song was this: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CanisMaximus

        By the time Lay it On the Ground was written ... Organized Labor represented about a third of non-government workers and exercised enormous political clout -- directed by an at least nominally grass roots democratic process.

        So ... this was a happy song -- smug even -- snarking at reactionaries who had equated Unionism with the Communist Internationale -- AND WHO HAD LOST!

        But, with one thing and another we've returned to the situation in which each worker must "negotiate" separately with her/his employer for "what the market decides" -- take it or leave it

        As it was when this song was written

        Solidarity Forever

        When the Union's inspiration in the Workers' blood shall run
        There can be no  Power greater anywhere beneath the sun
        Yet what could be as helpless as the feeble strength of one ?
        But the Union makes us strong

        Solidarity Forever
        Solidarity Forever
        Solidarity Forever
        For the Union makes us strong.

    •  union maid (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mnemosyne, CanisMaximus

      fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

      by mollyd on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 06:39:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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